3 September 2015

A little fishy

On Saturday, D took the two older kids fishing with M's Godfather at Heart Lake Conservation.  (Oh how they loved it!)  They got filthy playing in the mud and with the bait.  J wanted to bring home some worms as pets.  And M caught two fish.  Tiny fish.  But that didn't matter to him.  He kept telling me that he could help find food for us to cook and eat now.  (What a sweet little monkey!)

Anyhow, I got a chance to put my feet up, and then S and I made salsa.  First time.  Also, we made tomato paste.  Another first.  They are both just delicious.  I can't tell you how something as simple as tomato paste can be so delicious, but it is.  You can taste the sunshine and the earth.  (Not literally... that would probably taste terrible... the earth part especially.)  But I had no idea that you needed a bazillion tomatoes for one measly jar!  Oh well.  I used this recipe for the salsa, but omitted the peppers.  Our kids have milder tastes, but I did add fresh ground black pepper.  It did the trick.  A mild salsa just bursting with flavour.

By the way, that photo is some of M's math.  He is trying to memorize the multiplication facts.  It is a bit of a long process, I think, but he just loves it.  He brought this chart out by himself and started filling it in for fun.  That's how I can tell he's into math - it's fun work for him!

So this past weekend was all about tomatoes.  And cleaning.  And fish.  :)  And perhaps a little cookery on the side.

Looking forward some apple picking with the whole family this weekend!  Cheers!

25 August 2015

Weekending, monkey bars, and other tidbits

How time flies.  It is almost September.  Almost the last week of August.  I thought we just started the summer!  To be fair, it has been a wonderful summer, despite the fickle weather.  And by fickle, I mean weather that can't make up its mind as to whether or not it's August or May.  C'est la vie.  We have lots of indoor activities (like chess, and tic-tac-toe and toy car washes on the balcony) for inclement weather.  But my favourites are those outdoor times where the kids play for hours and we lose track of the time and the day stretches out gently.  

But the weekends have been lovely.  I must say.  And full.  Full of visits to the zoo, outdoor BBQs in the park, canoeing, playing soccer, practicing monkey bars, swimming and just about everything that makes summer special for little ones.  (Incidentally, we don't seem to have much trouble getting them to bed after these excursions.)  And yet somehow, these adventures don't make things feel busy or even remotely chaotic.  Perhaps we take a low-key approach, or maybe the excursions we have allow for us to relax together.  Or perhaps it's because during the week, we are mostly homebodies aside from the daily park visits or nature walks, so when the weekend comes we have the energy to go forth.  I don't know.  But I'm glad.  I emphatically dislike feeling stretched too thin.  And the more kids we have, the more stretched life gets.  At least we can control some parts of it.  D and I have always felt that it is important for the kids not to be rushed around from one thing to the next without time to absorb, process and just enjoy life.

So when I say practicing monkey bars is part of our summer, I am dead serious.  This 6 year old boy is just enamoured with those bars.  He wasn't able to do them at the beginning of the summer.  But he practiced and practiced.  (Every park we went to had to have monkey bars for him to practice on!)  And now he can do them.  Oh what pride and joy lit up that sweet face as he kept showing us how he could swing himself back and forth.  We keep telling him it was because he never gave up, and I think that resonated with him.  A good life lesson to take away from monkey bars.  :)

We received a present from one of our neighbours last week.  A pot of mint.  Such a nice gift!  It is sitting happily on our balcony alongside the spinach and parsley.  Our parsley has been getting haircuts quite regularly and I love being able to step out to the balcony whenever I need some.  Puts a whole new meaning on the word "fresh".  

My two-year old is quite a character, as you can see.  She likes to do everything the other two can.  And boy does she make it known when she's not happy.  It's kind of funny watching her pull her older sister or brother in the wagon for example.  Or try to run along when they have races.  She thrives on routine and order.  But what a fun girl to have around.  I can always count on her to be game for whatever craftsy, artsy project I do.  :)  

And because I am just brain dead right now, I will take my leave.  So much to do on my list this week to get the kids ready for school!  Hoping you enjoy the final days of August and summer. 

13 August 2015

Summer adventures

Last week we took a hike along the Riverwood Conservation trail nearby.  It was lovely.  The day was so warm, but hiking in the forest is cool enough to be enjoyable despite the heat.  The children saw all sorts of animals and birds - chickadees, bluejays, cardinals, sparrows, chipmunks, squirrels, bees - but no deer.  They had so wanted to find a deer, but with all the noise they made tramping along and investigating, I'm not really surprised.   I have to say that it was quite interesting hiking back up the hills on the way back.  Needless to say, I'm not in the best shape.  :(

On a whole different front, I have some terrible news.  Catastrophic really.  My fermented cucumbers did not turn out!  Oh how sad I was after all the excitement and success of the past.  I have no idea why either.  All I know is that they smelled off when I opened the jars and they had grown mold.  What a huge disappointment.  The only thing that remains is to try again.  And my fingers will be crossed the entire time!  (Along with some prayers sent heavenwards that I don't waste another batch of those delectable cucumbers!)

 I promised to help someone with chemistry, but it's been many years since university.  So, I have been spending most of my free time studying and refreshing my tired old brain.  Except when this cutie pie climbs onto my lap.  (What a monkey she is!)  She is our new pigtails - finally convinced her to let me put that mop of hers into some order! 

I am going through an interesting phase in the kitchen these days.  Everything to do with housework has become a chore, including cooking.  The bare minimum gets done in the kitchen.  Lentils and rice with salad.  Roasted potatoes and carrots.  It doesn't sound too bad maybe, but the joy has gone out of it for the time being.  Right now, it is a chore and I feel like rolling my eyes when I think of what needs to be done around the house.

Thank God for these darling helpers of mine.  They are little motivators.  Here is M making some dough for spinach pies since we need to harvest some of our spinach.  Honestly, they are so nice to have on hand when we want to head outdoors.  They're portable and delicious - perfect food for little hands to hold while running around.  And J is making a cheese sauce.  (With mama supervising stove-time.)  And little S.  Well, she's hunting around for a spoon to stir the pasta.  :)  

Everyone helps mama.  And mama is so grateful for the support that even little hands can give.  Bless their little hearts!  Now if only I could find a volume button for them...


4 August 2015

In a pickle

Rain-washed air smells so fresh, so clean, so wholesome.  You can't help but take extra deep breaths as you inhale its scent.  I love being outside right after a storm, especially in the quiet of evening.  When nature itself rests, absorbs, and covers the earth with a tranquil garment of peace.  The stars twinkle, the crickets chirp, a few fireflies glow softly.  Everything is soft, everything is peaceful, ready for its nightly rest and renewal.  

My soul is somehow renewed, strengthened by these moments,  And in a way I cannot completely understand.  As if the soul is able to assimilate an unearthly peace, a glimpse of God Himself through His handiwork.  What beauty, what richness, what blessing!

Amid these thoughts, it seems a little odd to reminisce on the past week.  We were supposed to head to Quebec this weekend, but our plans had to be cancelled due to an unfortunate last minute occurance.  However, it ended up working out beautifully for this tired mama.  We had a lovely Sunday, though it wasn't as flashy as some.  We finally got a couple bags of cucumbers from the  farmer's market.  (Along with tomatoes and fresh eggs of course!)  Last night we finished preparing them and getting them into jars.  I use this recipe in a general way and we add our own seasoning to taste.  I always have fresh grape leaves in my freezer (usually for stuffing) and we've used them with lots of success in the past.  The pickles really do stay crunchy, even over many months.  That's my little helper in the picture above posing with our jars of pickles.  He is eagerly waiting for fermentation, and plans on helping to burp the jars as needed.  :)  What a darling that little man is.

On Monday we went blueberry and corn picking at Andrew's.  The kids had the time of their lives playing in the bushes and on the climbing structures afterwards.  The berries weren't as ripe as we wanted, but that didn't stop the little ones.  Oh no.  Look at that little munchkin in the bushes stuffing her face with berries.  That makes me happy - watching them wading through bushes checking under leaves, finding a ladybug, chasing a butterfly, purple smears on their hands and mouths.  It just feels so right.  Children need to be connected to nature, to the outdoors, to life.  It's so easy nowadays to plunk them in front of the screen and leave it at that.  But this?  This is what they thrive on!

A simply beautiful day.  Wishing for many more days like these...

31 July 2015

Cookery & a few tidbits from daily life

I am so happy to find a bit of time to post this!  I was hoping to get some kitchen fun in this week.  :)  We have stalled a little in our preserving and putting up of summer produce, but I suspect that will pick up again after this weekend.  We are travelling to Quebec early tomorrow morning, so there are preparations to be finished.   

After another lovely gift of apples from my cousin, my sister requested I make an apple custard pie for her visit.  (I was only too happy to oblige!)  I have a bag in the freezer of apple filling for sometime later on - I think I might have to make a pie for a special cousin...

Fresh bread waxes and wanes in our home these days.  It was a good day, as you can tell from this loaf on the counter.  If I had a big enough freezer, I'd freeze a bunch of dough in small bags to have ready when needed.  Now that would be awesome!  

Okra and meat in a tomato paste sauce.  I can't tell you how delicious, how filling this dish is.  The kids somehow prefer spinach to this, but they ate it up too.  This mama is not a short-order cook, so these kiddies of ours have gotten used to eating what's put on the table.  It does tend to be obvious which are favourites though by the amount of second and third helpings.  ;)  

My little helpers!  Lots of little hands helping to break the string beans into smaller pieces.  We cook them with onions.  They love that.  And they love helping out too.  Usually, I take out a bag of beans, plunk myself at the table and start.  This is like flowers to a bee, and not many minutes pass before they swarm around me begging to help.  They really are helpers, I must say.  It takes no time at all to finish with two or three or four sets of hands pitching in.  These are beautiful moments in life that I store up as little memory treasures - tidbits of joy that brighten my days.

Interestingly enough, we often have very deep conversations around the table while we work.  And sometimes in the car on our way to wherever.  It's... priceless.  I'm sure every parent has those kinds of talks with their kids.  Kids are just full of whatever's around them, and they're constantly processing.  To have them share these reflections or questions with me creates this profound connection between us.  I don't feel that I am adequate or capable, of shaping them in this way.  However, as a mama, I don't have much choice!  I simply pray that God touches their little hearts and works in their lives the way that they need, despite my bumbling clumsiness and failings.  

There are some serious studies going on around here.  :)  Colouring always is.  And when little baby (who's not so much a baby any more) just has to imitate older siblings, well, it's a beautiful sight.  I look forward to collaborating with these little ones on a serious art project one day.  That, of course, would require me to get organized and possibly plan something.  Hmmm.  I foresee a long interval before completion.  A mama can dream though.  

Enjoy your weekend!  

24 July 2015

In the studio and around the home

Lately, we have been eating lots of greens.  Not just salad, I mean.  Spinach with meat and rice (that spinach is from our balcony garden), Mlukheye (wild leaves that we boil with chicken to make a soupy dish that the kids love with rice too), stuffed zucchini, okra with onions and tomato sauce... I love looking into my fridge and seeing all those vivid greens and reds and yellows. 

Last night D went on a bike ride with the little ones.  All three of them.  Doesn't sound like a big deal until you've tried to corral three energetic monkeys on bikes going helter-skelter up hills and around streets.  Nerve-wracking for a parent.  D is as cool as a cucumber.  He offers to take them all so I can have a breather.  Do the dishes in peace.  Finish freezing some extra herbs or berries.  Maybe sit down for a minute and play a tune on the new piano.

We got a new keyboard.  It's not a true piano, but I have a hunch that isn't far behind.  There's only so much you can do with a keyboard, and pedalling is not one.  :)  However, space is an issue here, so keyboard it is for now.  The kids love it and have been begging for "lessons".  Oh yes, little ones, you shall indeed have those!

We went to the petting zoo this past weekend.  The kids love animals, so of course they loved walking around.  Favourites were the deer, the ponies and the bunny rabbits.  And the ducks.  Can't forget the ducks.

There is something about summer work that is pleasant.  Perhaps I am finding it so because D is there to help out in the evenings often, which leaves me a bit of space to plan or execute tricky details.  Or perhaps it's just that time of year and it feels right for this kind of work.  Can't wait till we get in some cucumbers for the pickles!  Perhaps next week...

There are lots of projects happening around here.  Yarn, fabric, wood, food, and music.  Everything that makes life beautiful!  The quilt is almost done.  I stayed up late sewing last night and now I only have the binding left.  I love this simple, rustic style.  It's just a mishmash of old fabrics sewn together in strips - not particularly neatly either.  It just works though.  The kids keep begging me to finish it so they can use it.  I am not sure if I shall leave it for the kids, or keep it as a Christmas gift for a certain special someone, who shall remain nameless.  Perhaps I'll just have to do another one.  And that, my friends, is a happy thought to be sure.  :)

This is a photo of that pink baby sweater.  As you can see, it is now close to completion.  I picked out some sweet wooden buttons with carved flowers on them.  And I have some simple white ones also.  I will probably keep the wooden ones for the grey sweater and use the white for this pink one.  I think.  We'll see when all is said and done.  By the way, most of the progress on this sweater came during morning swimming lessons!  Despite having all the kids with me, even little S, I managed to get at least a couple of rows per day.  Not too shabby.  Now that lessons are finished for the summer, knitting progress may slow.  Especially with all the other projects.  

I am hoping to get back into some iconography before baby arrives, so I have been preparing a few boards these past couple of weeks.  Two of them didn't turn out so well being older, and the gesso wasn't sanding smoothly.  So when the kids asked for their own boards, I was only too happy to oblige.  And they were thrilled!  As you can see, they have their own artistic style.  :)  I am hoping they will agree to a project where we can write a beautiful quote on their boards together, maybe with stencils or something like that.  Then they can give them as gifts, or keep them should they be so inclined.  (Usually I find they like to give away the things they make.  Bless their little hearts!)  

Anyhow.  That's quite an update for me.  Life hasn't been all rosy and gay.  We all have struggles alongside the joys.  In fact, these past two weeks have been particularly trying for some reason.  I find though, that even just a little handiwork is the best medicine for the blues.  Truly.  So, I've been taking as much of that pill as possible.  As you can see!  Hopefully next week there will be some kitchen updates - I do love sharing what's happening in the kitchen!

Happy weekending to you!

21 July 2015

Pie squared

A random post to share a discovery that I have no doubt the rest of the world already knows: You can make pie dough in a food processor.  Oh yes.  I have spent years, decades in fact, not knowing this fact.

But now, I know.  And that is why we have not one, but TWO pies cooling on the stove right now.  Making dough takes a grand total of 3 minutes with a food processor.  Literally.  Butter goes in with flour.  Pulse until crumb-y, add water bit by bit until dough forms a ball.  Done.  What a revelation!

Now, I'm all for knowing the old non-electricity-requiring ways.  For obvious reasons, perhaps.  (Imagine if the power went out for an extended period of time...)  But to have such convenience available is a luxury I have only just discovered.  We don't have a lot of space in the kitchen and elsewhere for that matter, so we have to pick and choose what we keep.  And I have to say that our food processor is truly the star of the kitchen.  It is the most used appliance I have.  (Well, that and maybe the blender for the kids smoothies or jam.)

Anyhow, what started the whole pie thing was a delightful bag of apples from my cousin, who had picked them from her backyard tree.  What a gift!  They were so tart and sour, they were begging to be made into pie.  Around the same time, I noticed a bowl of blueberries leftover from jam-making and in need of attention.  So instead of choosing, I made two pies.

There you go.

No such thing as too much pie, right?  :)